ChildHope is constantly inspired by women and children around the world that face injustice and abuse on a daily basis but work so hard to change their lives for the better. For this year's International Women’s Day, we’d like to share with you the story of Dembe, who has tackled so many challenges in her life and is a role model to other women.
When ChildHope’s partner, Uganda Reproductive Health Bureau (URHB) met Dembe, she was engaged in sex work on the streets of Eastern Uganda. Life was risky for her, as she was often beaten and raped by men. Without knowing, she contracted HIV. Her health was failing, and she was struggling to survive.
Upon meeting URHB Social Workers, Dembe learned about her HIV status and was given support on how to live positively and take treatment to improve her health. Dembe was enrolled into a 6 months hairdressing course and was provided with a start up kit upon completion. Utilizing this opportunity to the full, Dembe worked hard every day to make her salon business a success. At first it was hard, as she needed to regain trust and respect of her community. But after a year, Dembe was earning enough money to hire an employee to help her at her salon.
‘I feel confident whereas before I just had fear. I now work hard, believe in myself, and feel good’.
Today, Dembe earns triple the amount per day that she did from sex work, and has a much healthier and safer lifestyle. She saves some of her money each month in case of emergencies, has invested in 2 goats and is saving for a cow. Dembe also supported her mother to set up a business selling shoes. Using these earnings Dembe and her mother jointly pay for her 2 brothers to attend school. Dembe is so proud of this achievement, as it is an opportunity that she missed out on.
Inspired by URHB’s programme, and with a renewed passion for life, Dembe wants to encourage other young girls away from the dangers of sex work. Without any additional resources, Dembe now counsel’s girls she meets on the streets engaged in sex work and allows them to learn hairdressing skills from her in her salon. She has also established a forum for young people living with HIV, and rallies others to provide support to those in need of help. Dembe’s dream is to develop this group further to support children living with HIV to access education.
Through access to education and training opportunities, many women can access their rights and reach their potential to initiate change in their own lives as well as their communities.